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A Father’s Day Story

What I understand most about my father.
My dad isn’t around anymore but his life, or what I know of it, definitely had a lasting influence on me; especially the fishing part.

He was born near Lodi, California, a grape farming town only a couple hours down the hill from Yosemite National Park. Yet we never went there as kids because he didn’t like crowds. For the same reason, we never went to Disneyland or San Francisco, etc. Instead my mom and the five of us kids packed up the Ford camper, sometimes with our aluminum boat on top, and ventured to the mountains or ocean. Looking back, I think money had a lot to do with his destination choices so I’m glad we didn’t have very much- I hate to think of how different my childhood experiences would have been.

I don’t know the locations of all those wonderful places that my dad took us, there were too many and I was too young. But I remember fishing on a frozen lake where my big brother was at the bow of the boat chopping away a path in the ice. I remember camping on a fishing harbor pier that had a sign that said “No Overnight Camping!” I remember fishing off a rock jetty and catching a bucket of smelt that we’d later fry. I remember throwing out crab nets somewhere. I remember clamming at Pismo Beach in the surf, Digging waist deep in mud for Horseneck clams at Bodega Bay, and Abalone hunting in Fort Bragg tide pools. My dad would also take my older brothers pheasant and duck hunting in the Delta but I was too young for that.

My dad grew up fishing as a boy but there was a long period in his life where he couldn’t fish. During the war (WWII), my dad’s family (like all Japanese Americans) was interned and sent to a relocation camp in Arkansas. While in camp my dad enlisted in the US Army, under which he would ride the Queen Mary to France and guard Nazi POWs. He once said that he snuck them food because they were only fed canned pineapple. After the Army he went to a trade school in Chicago before moving back to California. There he started a family, a business, a farm, and built the house that we grew up in. Eventually, he’d teach all of us how to hunt, fish, and camp.

Often we’d fish for trout, but not with fly rods. My memories of trout fishing are always in our aluminum boat, or my uncle Hank’s boat, with bologna sandwiches, Canada Dry ginger ale, Olympia beer (the first beer I ever tasted) and of course a can of creamed corn for chum. On those days we woke up early so I’d be drowsy once on the lake and the pattering sound of the water hitting the aluminum hull would lull me to sleep, or maybe I was just bored. To be honest, my memories of a smelly tackle box, two stroke smoke, and fish guts are not the best, but I’m sure my dad was in his happy place.

Being so young, I don’t remember any meaningful conversations I had with my dad during those trips, except one. He was talking about fishing with his friends when he was a boy. I asked him why he doesn’t go fishing with them anymore. My dad explained that it was a long time ago and when the war broke out they didn’t want to be friends with “Japs.” Then he looked sad, or mad, I don’t know, he just stopped talking about it. My dad was always loyal and kind to all his friends so I can imagine how much that must have hurt him. I’ve been treated the same way by strangers but never by my friends.

My dad’s life was much different than mine. I’ve often imagined what it must have felt like to live through what he did. With the best imagination I’d be way off, I’m sure.

But the fishing part of his life I do understand. Although the trout fishing I do today hardly resembles how my dad fished, the tug on his spinning rod all those years ago is the exact same tug I feel with my fly rod; Waking up early isn’t so hard when you get to go fishing; It’s better to fish than to be around crowds; And always bring cold beer (not Olympia).

Happy Father’s Day!

Jeff Sasaki

 

 

 

 

 

8 Responses

Charmaine

Charmaine

July 02, 2021

Love yr touching, well written story about yr Dad and growing up. Yr former neighbor still remembers yr thoughtful gesture in mowing our front lawn to welcome us to the neighborhood! Miss seeing yr garage door open with you always busy, working hard on a project. It brought life to our suburbia street! Glad to see you and Robin are thriving in the wonders of the outdoors in Northern CA and yr passion and design skills have expanded to fly fishing !

Bert

Bert

June 21, 2021

My dad brought me to the concrete piers in Pacifica. It was always cold. We were fishing for striped bass and salmon. We’d get bullheads sometime and throw them back. I was lucky there was a snack store at the end of the pier.

Joe P

Joe P

June 21, 2021

Wow, Jeff! Thank you for sharing this amazing and touching story! You and I have been friends for a long time, but I hadn’t heard a lot of this. Here’s a toast to your great dad. And, no crowds.

Lionel Emata

Lionel Emata

June 21, 2021

Fishing was never part of my journey; however, the yearning to learn more about my father’s past is strong. It would help me understand the choices that he made in raising six kids that still affect my character and passions today. Though I envy the experiences other fathers have imparted on their children, my father gave us a life rich with art, laughter and learning. He was always my hero.
Thank you for sharing your memory of your father.

Greg D

Greg D

June 21, 2021

Thanks for sharing. This is a great reminder how much there is to learn about our dad’s out on the water where all the other distractions fall away. I didn’t know there were Japanese internment camps so far from the west coast. Ever been curious to go see the one in Arkansas?

Miles Zimmerman

Miles Zimmerman

June 21, 2021

Great write up Jeff, fishing will continue to transcend generations as long as we do our part to protect the resources! Let’s hope our children’s children can continue to have great fishing like we have! Cheers!

Steve Horn

Steve Horn

June 21, 2021

That was fantastic. I don’t remember ever talking about what we as kids did with our families. I read a lot of my life in the trips and what you all did.

Bob Robillard

Bob Robillard

June 20, 2021

What a fantastic story — and perfect for Father’s Day. I never knew how much you looked alike. I always thought Craig looked more like him. In any case, I’m wish we could all be together fishing and sipping some cold brew. Thank you

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